Author: Advisory Board, Mainstream UMC
This is the first of four posts analyzing the results of the Mainstream UMC Grassroots Survey that ran from June 25 to July 11, 2019. There were 28 questions total. This post covers questions 2, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 17. These questions focused on the demographics of the respondents and were designed to gauge grassroots opinions and expectations for change. There are links below to read the other posts as they are available.
People in the pews are engaged as never before with a strong sense of urgency for change at General Conference 2020. We had 13,176 people take the survey. Respondents self-identified Traditional, Centrist, and Progressive in direct proportion to how 2019 annual conferences elected delegates. Not surprisingly, the survey results demonstrated the stark polarization between Traditionalists and Centrists/Progressives. The large numbers of respondents in each group will guide us as we prayerfully discern next steps for the church.
We are witnessing a generational awakening among Centrists and Progressives in the United Methodist Church. There has been an outpouring of energy following the narrow passage of the mean-spirited Traditional Plan at General Conference 2019. The awakening can be seen from the successful organization and elections in annual conferences to the UM Forward gathering in Minneapolis to the UMC Next event in Kansas City. The response to the Mainstream UMC Grassroots Survey has been just another example.
We were hoping for 500-600 responses to our survey to give some direction. We were overwhelmed with 13,176 people taking it over the course of two weeks. Eighty-five percent completed it (11,200) taking an average of 8 minutes and 43 seconds to get through it. In short, people spent over 1,600 hours working on this. There is an unprecedented passion in the church for what is next.
While not a “scientific” poll, the Mainstream UMC survey helps us understand possible solutions from different perspectives. We had responses from all 54 US annual conferences and 10 countries. About 98% overall were from the United States. Respondents were 72% Lay and 28% Clergy. Key to this survey, we asked respondents to self-identify themselves as either Traditional, Centrist, or Progressive. We received a large number of responses in each group that lends credibility to what we learn about them. The greatest benefit of this survey is seeing the differences in the answers among these three groups. This helps inform what we must do to move the church forward.
Question 8: “Generally Speaking, how would you characterize your theological view?”
|Percent of Respondents||Number of Respondents|
There is also an unmistakable urgency for change in the church right now that is shared across the spectrum of belief. Question 17 asked, “How long do you think you can wait for change in the church?” Remarkably 52% of all respondents said they wanted change either by January 1 or at least by General Conference in May of 2020. This compares to only 14% who said they could wait 2 to 4 years. The remainder of respondents were unsure. The percentages on sense of urgency were close together, regardless of whether someone identified as Traditional, Centrist, or Progressive.
Question 9 shows that both the awakening and urgency can be traced directly to the perception of the Traditional Plan coming out of General Conference 2019. This question uncovers the polarization in the church. Progressives and Centrists are closely aligned in strong disagreement. Those who identified as Traditional overwhelmingly agree with GC 2019. This question also shows there are very few neutral parties left. The aggregate number of 73% disagree and 25% agree almost exactly matches the delegate counts in the US following the most recent annual conference elections.
Question 9: “Do you agree or disagree with the 2019 General Conference action to adopt the Traditional Plan?”
Question 10 follows the same pattern. The survey asked, “Should the United Methodist Church in the United States allow ordination and marriage of LGBTQ persons?” Again, 99% of Progressives and 83% of Centrists said yes. While 92% of Traditionalists said no. The aggregate percentage of 74% yes and 25% no is probably the new normal in the US church. The next two questions were only asked to persons who answered “yes” to question 10. Question 11, “Would you welcome an openly LGBTQ pastor in your local church?” And Question 12, “Would you welcome weddings of openly LGBTQ persons in your local church?” Not surprisingly, those who said “yes” to LGBTQ ordination and marriage, whether Traditional, Centrist, or Progressive said they support this in their own church, at 90%+ across the board.
This awakening and urgency puts tremendous pressure on leaders going into General Conference 2020. The people in the pews are tuned in as never before and are expecting change. Whatever that change will be, delegates must navigate very polarized waters. We will explore what is possible as we work through all of the survey results.
A big “Thank you” to everyone who participated in the survey!
Read all the analysis:
Survey Results 1 of 4: Awakening & Urgency
Posted July 30, 2019
Survey Results 2 of 4: Can We Live Together in the US Church?
Posted August 1, 2019
Survey Results 3 of 4: Changes to the Global Structure.
Posted August 6, 2019
Survey Results 4 of 4: Concerns About a Split.
Posted August 8, 2019
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